Sep 27, 2021 | Grit
This year feels like one very long season on a TV show that keeps adding suspense to each series. What I mean by this is, you think you have a handle of what is going on and think you might make it through but then a curve ball gets thrown in and it becomes chaotic again. This keeps you in suspense of what next will happen.At the beginning you felt like you wanted to roll up your sleeves and help in any way you could – when we closed our doors to visitors my heart broke for our patients. We wanted to do everything we could to help them through their stay with us and be connected to their families and not feel a loss. We arranged singing days to brighten them up, as well as a Patient Giving Cart that went around to be able to accommodate the patients asks and needs. We helped with connecting the patients with their families whether it be on the phone, FaceTime or an outside visit in the courtyard. With volunteers not being able to come in, I fully stepped into the role with our two amazing Chaplains, Hilton and Emily, and we became family to our patients. In talking to our patients, you learned how fast you helped by being that support when they needed it. We also became closer to our staff and we found that we were the listening ear for them when they needed it. I also joined a great group of individuals through the Family Support Team and Patient care Team We supported our patients and got them items that they needed to help them through their stay with us. Along this journey I became a help for our Designated Care Partner orientation which made you feel great that we could implement a program to get a loved one in for our patients. In August I inherited the Screeners – which was a challenge in itself, but with time I came to understand the process and was able to support the staff. I also took on the process for Student Placements, which was a lot to handle, especially alongside the new Cerner program being implemented in November, but we managed through it all. I have to say that with all these areas I helped in, I have grown to know so many staff and made great connections with them deeper than what I had before. Despite wanting to help and be there for everyone, as time went on, , it became emotionally and physically draining. I started to feel that I was lost in my own world. I was torn between work and family and it has been a big struggle. My heart bleeds for our patients and our staff and that is why I felt I needed to be here to help them through; but this meant I sacrificed my time at home with my family. It was very difficult dealing with guilt as a mom and a wife. I also dealt with even feeling like an outcast with some of my family at work as I felt like I was away from them and lost touch. I am a people person and I always try to have a smile on my face and cover my true feelings but it was difficult with the year we were having. I tried my best to keep it together and push on and I am thankful for a few people that have been here for me who gave me the strength to keep coming in and do my work. I know we are all very blessed for our lives, that we are still working and that we have some positives that have come out of this all, but it’s trying to stay positive when I have been struggling lately. All I can say is that my faith and prayers have helped me through just knowing that God will guide me down the right path. The most that I have learned is that being there for patients and staff to listen to their fears and struggles, has been my comfort to knowing how I can help them through. This is what I was called to do during this horrible year of COVID-19. This is a prayer that I said every day to bring me back to a place where I did not feel that I was fighting to keep on going, that I would like to share: Father, please grant me peace of mind, and calm my troubled heart. My soul is so uneasy. I can't seem to find my balance, so I stumble and worry constantly. Give me the strength and clarity of mind to find my purpose and walk the path you've laid out for me. I trust Your Love, and know that you will heal this stress that I just can't seem to shake. Just as the sun rises each day against the dark of night, please bring me clarity with the light of the Holy Father, Amen. As we push through these times we just remind ourselves of our love for each other, the comfort that we bring each other and that if you feel like you're losing everything, remember that trees lose their leaves every year and they still stand tall and wait for better days to come. God Bless, Paulette
When COVID-19 first hit Windsor I was employed by Sun Parlor Nursing Home as a personal support worker while completing my second year of my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) degree. Many agencies and organizations needed help as they anticipated the effects of this pandemic so, as summer was arriving, I applied to a position at Erie Shores Heath Care (ESHC) and was hired as a screener. Throughout the summer I worked long days as a screener and doing outreach work with ESHC. This included going to the farms and testing the farm workers. This was such a humbling experience and one that I will never forget. The long, hot days of wearing layers upon layers of PPE came with exhaustion for us, however, it did not outweigh the fear that the farm workers had about getting tested, getting sick and dying alone without their families and loved ones. As a screener I was the gatekeeper for visitors and loved ones who could not enter the hospital. It was an impossible task to turn away those that were filled with worry and sorrow. The importance of family centered care and an accountable support system vanished initially to protect our communities but, just as it saved many lives’ it also caused distress in the community. Victims of COVID-19 died alone, first time mothers had appointments alone, children were only allowed one parent to accompany them but, we continued to learn, and we continued to find innovative ways to provide the best care in the safest ways. A world that feared a future of technology suddenly became dependent on it, the elderly navigated iPads and iPhones, communities were connecting from around the world, game nights, movie nights and trivia nights were occurring in thousands of places at the same time. We were able to adapt and change just as we always do, and we did it with a sense of understanding and hope. When September came, I began my third year and ESHC was able to fill the positions for screeners with individuals that had varying education backgrounds. This is when Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) was looking for trained individuals in the nursing field to assist in caring for patients during their recovery and rehab. As a nursing student I felt I needed to go where my skills could be best used and as I started my last semester of third year, I also started my position at HDGH as a member of the Patient Care Team. This came with more valuable experiences and even more challenges to overcome. As the waves of COVID-19 rolled through Windsor-Essex each came with protests, anti-maskers, more confusion, hopelessness and anger within our community. It wasn’t easy, it still isn’t easy, and nursing will never be easy however, there is no field that I would rather be studying. I often struggled to look above the waves and remember why I chose this field. As I was buried in exhaustion, stress, anger and hopelessness I would often look around and there would be one patient, one co-worker or one loved one that would help me swim again. The ability to care for and be of service to others is one of the most rewarding positions to be in. I was able to care for patients that were healing, growing and learning just as I was. We shared laughs, tears and many stories. I stood on the bedside of those who were passing, and I encouraged those who were healing. I was able to stand beside my team when we were strong, and I stood behind them when they needed support just as they would stand behind me. Every experience, every person and every day helped me to recognized how I am truly blessed to be a part of this community that cares for the wellness of other humans, regardless of beliefs, race, gender, abilities or age. It has been a fast paced, humbling time full of opportunity and new knowledge. There have definitely been hardships, but I have watched so much love, support and hope grow in the past year and a half, it is impossible to focus on just the bad. As I prepare to complete my final year as a nursing student, I am excited to be a part of such an incredible and supportive community as a nurse. Stay safe, be kind and check in on one another.
I began my journey at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare June 1, 2020, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. I had such a mix of emotions. I was so excited to be working at the hospital but at the same time, I felt somewhat nervous…not the typical kind of nervousness that you feel when starting a new job. I was fearful of COVID-19 and all of the unknowns but I was also beyond excited to be working in the profession doing exactly what I love. I think back and still remember my very first day of work, walking around the units meeting all of my fellow co-workers. I introduced myself, without a handshake, but rather exchanging a few words alongside a smile that was hidden behind my mask. It is strange to think that I have been working here for over a year now and only have seen my co-workers with a mask hiding half of their face. Even though their smiles were hiding behind a mask I could still tell by their eyes that they were smiling, which was a very welcoming feeling.Over the first five months I began to feel more comfortable and at ease with the virus, wearing my mask and shield. But then... the outbreak at HDGH happened on the floor I had been working on at the time. My role of floating around the hospital changed and suddenly so did my usual routine. My face was squished behind an N95 mask, not required, but because it helped me feel more at ease and safer. One of the hardest things to hear is the news that your co-workers got COVID-19 and were fighting this awful unknown sickness alone. At the start of the outbreak, I still remember coming into work with so much worry. Stress was an understatement and the fear grew more than ever. It was then that I started to eat my lunch in the car. I was scared of going to the cafeteria to eat around others. The winter months were too cold to eat outside so my car felt like the safest place. I was scared to take my mask off- so I would not even take a sip of water throughout the day. It was heartbreaking seeing these sick patients with no family surrounding them, with no visitors coming in to see them. Our role has always been surrounded by patient care and always about going above and beyond our job title, but during those times, more than ever, we had to be these patients’ families. They were in isolation, stuck in their rooms alone and we were the ones seeing them every day. Our hair was underneath scrub caps, faces behind masks and shields and our bodies wore a yellow gown. As many patients said, “you all look the same.” Now fast forward a few months later and we are seeing post COVID-19 patients come through our hospital doors for rehabilitation. We are now helping these patients through their recovery. I think back on this past year and all of the mixed emotions, and although there were many days coming in where I was stressed, it was the comfort of each other that inspired me everyday. I am so fortunate to have such a strong supportive group of co-workers who are all so hard working and determined. I consider myself lucky to be part of such a team. When things got tough and stressful it was comforting knowing that through it all… we all stood strong together.
The experience I want to share took place the second week of January 2021 which was nearly one month into my secondment from HDGH to The Village at St. Clair, Schlegel Villages. We had developed wonderful working relationships with the Schlegel team. I was there with my colleague and our President and CEO Janice Kaffer and as many as ten other HDGH frontline colleagues who had volunteered to support Schlegel with the major COVID-19 outbreak that had very severely impacted the long term care facility. We were literally on site seven days a week and throughout the entire Holiday Season supporting the residents, their family members and of course the Schlegel team. To put the entire experience into perspective, The Village at St. Clair experienced over 300 residents and employees that were COVID-19 positive and by the time we left the site, 68 souls had passed away. On that one particular afternoon in January, it was an incredibly cold and very snowy day. The snow was coming down very heavy with a very strong wind. As I was discussing a matter with one of my Schlegel Villages colleagues (Jennifer) I noticed a young lady outside in the courtyard area and I asked Jennifer who that was and why she was standing outside, literally in the midst of a snow storm. Jennifer informed me that the person outside was visiting her mother through the window. Her mother was a long-time resident. She was COVID-19 positive and she was actively passing away. The young lady was saying good-bye to her mother. I was so moved by what I was told that I felt very compelled to go outside. As I approached her and introduced myself, she too informed me that her mother was passing away and that she was there to see her mother through the window. She explained that because of the COVID-19 outbreak in the long term care facility, she was fearful of being in the building and in resident rooms for herself and for her young children at home. As we were talking, I noticed an elderly gentleman making his way towards us. As he approached us, the young lady introduced the gentleman to me. It was her father. He sat in a chair up against the window, all bundled up to protect himself from the weather conditions. It was an incredibly poignant moment. He was there to say good-bye to his wife of 53 years, sitting outside, in a snow storm and under the worst of circumstances. Yet, even in that moment of despair and sadness, the two of them both expressed their gratitude for the staff of HDGH and Schlegel Villages for the opportunity to say good-bye to their wife and mother in the manner that they had chosen. That moment, that conversation, with grieving family members, further demonstrated to me the grace and beauty of humanity. I am incredibly proud to be a member of the HDGH Family. I am proud of the tremendous work our frontline team has undertaken throughout the pandemic, on and off campus, and I am so very proud of our continued efforts! Our People are the epitome of Grit & Grace!!
Sep 28, 2021 | Grit
Where to begin. COVID-19 really put a damper on things personally for myself. I was going through a lot of mental health issues, being physically ill, and trying to take care of myself when this all started. I realized that my mental health and my physical health were really being tested and to balance work on top of it, was overwhelming (I could cry just typing this). I realized that my mental health and my addiction wasn't going to win this battle. COVID-19 added a lot to my plate and being away from friends and family, to try to help was impossible and felt like I had nowhere to turn for physical help. I couldn't let my mental health overtake my body. I realized that I couldn't do it on my own and I went to rehab in Guelph and got better before I let myself die from it. I got a push from Sue Klein and without her, who knows where I would be right now. Mental health, COVID-19 and juggling a job is no joke and is alive and real. I came back to work and jumped right into it as best as I can. I then went and helped with the Villages of St. Clair as well when HDGH asked for help. That was a big eye opener – being hand in hand with very unwell patients trying to beat this. Very humbling and I’m so grateful I was able to help. I just hope that maybe my story can help someone who is struggling with addiction, mental health issues, work and just trying to get by each day. Life is tough but it makes us all stronger, one day at a time.
Most individuals don’t realize that hospitals themselves are small towns. When I say this, I mean, they employ staff who hold all kinds of specialties and Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is no exception. On the 33-acre campus, HDGH has electricians, housekeepers, counselors, administrative staff, doctors, nurses, infection control practitioners, exercise specialists, IT, and communications staff. I am one of those lucky enough to be part of a small but mighty communications team. In my role, I work with my colleagues to tell the hospital’s stories, launch new programs, maintain our website and social media channels and assist our leadership team in communicating with our over 1,300 employees, patients, clients and our community. I have always been blessed to be part of this team, involved in supporting all aspects of the hospital – both clinical and non-clinical.I remember back to January of 2020, in fact, it was January 27th, we were hearing about the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak in Wuhan, China, that day was no different in the world of a communications professional; members of our team met with our clinical folks, and sent out an update to staff, at HDGH these are called ‘all users emails’, telling them at this point “the risk remains low to Ontarians, our community and HDGH patients and staff”, little did we know how it was going to affect us. Fast forward to March, we organized our first information session with our partners from the Windsor Essex County Health Unit to update staff about COVID-19. As with many updates, we would bring chairs into the Brown Auditorium, pulling hundreds of staff together offering the latest information about this virus, little did we know it would be the last large gathering for our hospital family. And this was the start to what still is. March 6th, the memos to staff and physicians began, and they haven’t stopped. An Incident Management Response Team, often referred to as IMR, was established and HDGH’s structured response to the pandemic was in motion. As a member of the communications team I had the privilege to join this IMR team, in what would be an emotional, exhausting, inspiring, and little did I know, educational opportunity for me. You see, I have been working in healthcare for over 12 years, I have had the privilege of working alongside many professionals who have spent their whole careers in healthcare, I’ve learned many lessons along the way, that’s one of the things I love about healthcare, but after the last year, there has been no greater lesson than that of which the pandemic has taught me. From a communications’ lens, our role (and I say our, because as I mentioned earlier, I am grateful to be surrounded by an incredible team of communications professionals) was to ensure timely communications internally and externally. Seems like a relatively easy task, little did we know. As the Virus made its way to Ontario, the Government was holding daily press conferences, at HDGH we held a few of our own, notifying individuals of changes to visitation restrictions and other information that would affect those coming into the hospital for outpatient visits. As new Directives were issued from the Ministry, we would need to understand the impacts on our staff and communicate them in a timely fashion. Zoom Town Halls became the new way of bringing staff and physicians together for large updates. FAQ’s were being developed, signage printed and posted throughout our beautiful campus, programs were deferred in an effort to deploy staff to inpatient units as visitation was halted, Facebook and Twitter were exploding with questions of uncertainty and worry about loved ones and also with support and love for those who were “on the frontline”. Words like “unprecedented”, “navigating the pandemic”, “social-“, later to become “physical distancing”, “N95’s”, “surgical masks”, and “COVID” now seemed like the only thing we talked about. Entrances and exits to each of our buildings were reduced to one, “screeners” were deployed to ask screening questions to every individual who entered our buildings. We were learning about what close contact was, contract tracing, isolation guidelines and information was ever changing. There were fears about going into work and bringing the virus home to your family. It wasn’t always about inside the walls of the hospitals. Memos would speak to what to do when you arrived home from work, they would provide tools and resources to help everyone with their mental health. All of these changes were happening and we were committed to providing timely communications in order to stay ahead of the virus and in order to keep our people and our community safe. As the all users were becoming daily, sometimes multiple times a day occurrences, we knew as a team that cataloging these communications would be key as we “navigated the pandemic”. To this day, the catalog of these memos can be found on our hospital intranet site. As I write this, I have pulled up this page, looking at it now, it seems hard to imagine there were so many things to communicate. I scroll through and read many of the words I mentioned earlier and it is now merely a reminder of how quickly life changed and how quickly we needed to adapt. Little did I know how much this pandemic would teach me. Just as we were approaching the other side of a “wave”, we would be hearing about the next wave was affecting communities down the 401, we knew it would be coming to us next. Time would allow for a quick regrouping as cases started to rise locally. We found ourselves planning for worse case scenarios. I remember meetings where there was fear across many faces, I remember meetings where the laughter and the friendship was what got us through. I remember Zoom calls at all hours of the day, setting up a home office in a response to be ready to the next change. I remember colleagues checking in on each other as a colleague and as a friend. I always considered my colleagues my family, but little did I know. Professionally, I have learned that as cliché as it may sound, healthcare is really a calling. I have watched colleagues step up and help wherever they could safely do so. I have watched colleagues leave their shift and become that resource, a piece of mind if you will, for their neighbour, family or friend about what is going on with the virus. I have watched colleagues become friends and an organization come together. Personally, I have learned to slow down in life. I have enjoyed spending more time in nature with my husband and my son. I have adored watching my son develop a deeper relationship with his grandparents. Little did I know but with each challenge this pandemic has brought, it has also brought successes, it has brought failures and it has brought memories. In the end, they all tell a story, they tell your story and I can tell you that I am incredibly grateful and proud of my pandemic story.
Being redeployed during the COVID-19 pandemic was quite an adventure!!! At first, it was scary, facing a global pandemic, with so many unknowns. How contagious was it? How deadly? Would we be treating people at HDGH? How will we protect ourselves? How will we protect our families? There were many questions that we had to consider every day now. The rest of the world was seeking the answers to the same questions. We were fortunate enough to have a management team that consistently shared information with us. We were informed about the daily practices we would need to adopt to keep safe; guard against infection by wearing masks, face shields, and when providing care, wearing gloves and gowns. We even learned new language including donning and doffing. Washing our hands and disinfecting everything many times a day became a common practice. The consistent safeguards that everyone practiced helped quell those fears. Daily updates sent out by CEO, Janice Kaffer via Communications Manager, Nicole Crozier, kept us appraised of the changes and challenges we needed to be aware of. This empowered us to proactively care for our families, our patients, our community, and ourselves. In return, it helped build our resiliency and quell our fear. Shortly after the emergence of the virus in Ontario, we at the Center for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency (CPGDD) were informed by the upper management of the hospital that we had to close our programs ASAP and prepare it for re-conversion back into a hospital wing to treat the incoming patients that COVID-19 would bring. We prepared our residential clients to return home early. They had come two and a half weeks ago from all over Ontario to complete the intensive three week program which would help them recover from their problematic gambling and digital technology use. It was imperative to act quickly as some of them were relying upon public transit: trains, buses and planes, and access to these services were soon to be drastically reduced or unavailable, as the whole province was preparing to shut down. All of us counsellors scrambled to discuss and dissect the remaining program into the most essential components, present them to the clients, and then assist them in making their way home. Once the clients were sent on their way, our team commenced to packing up. At the same time, staff notified our outpatients – people who came into the office for counselling – that services would temporarily be unavailable. I would later contact them regularly, to provide telephone support and information as needed. The CPGDD team consisted of one manager, seven support workers, two secretaries, and seven counsellors. All of us set about the task of packing up our entire program. We were located in the Emara Building. Although we had been referred to as CPGDD, during the course of the pandemic our location came to be known as One North. We housed both the residential wing, comprised of seven bedrooms, a group room, file and storage rooms, a client’s lounge, a kitchen, a workout room and the doctor’s office, as well as the Support Workers desks and secured areas behind the desks. The counsellors’ side consisted of eight fully furnished offices with chairs, desks, computers, book shelves, and office equipment. There was also the staff room, kitchen, storage rooms and library. The secretaries had their work areas and private areas, filing room and photocopiers to contend with. All of these rooms were packed and moved to the recently placed, metal storage containers in the parking lot outside of the Emara building. We had no idea at the time, how long our offices would be sitting out there in among the comings and goings of cars every day. Over the course of the next two weeks, our entire team was trained in various areas of practice. We learned how to transfer people from wheel chair to chair, from bed to toilet, and back again. We even learned how to wash hair while a person was in bed. In addition, we learned various aspects of roles and practices such as Personal Support Worker, Environmental Services, Housekeeping, Complex Care, Palliative Care, Nursing, Mental Health Services, and Withdrawal and Addiction Services. Some coworkers even helped start a new service in the downtown sector called the Mental Health and Addictions Urgent Care Center (MHAUCC). This was specifically designed to help people cope emotionally and mentally with the pandemic and its repercussions. The training helped prepare us for redeployment, and it allowed us to better support our fellow workers in all these different domains of practice. In order to be the most useful, we had to become as versatile as possible. For some of us it even came with a change of our usual work attire. My typical suit jacket and slacks gave way to scrubs, masks and face shields. All of us had some anxiety and worries about dismantling our program and moving to different areas. We wondered, “Would we all come back together again?” and “How will the virus affect us, and our families?”, especially going into new roles and new places, which could potentially put us in direct exposure to the virus. To help stay connected and to provide support to each other, Janay, one of the counsellors started a PGS Facebook page. This social media platform became a lifeline and we used it to keep up to date of daily changes, where everyone was, how they were doing and what the latest happenings were in our lives, both professional and personal. We shared funny stories, memes, and articles to help keep our spirits up. I watched how incredibly resilient, supportive, and good-natured my colleagues were – even on bad days – by joking and playfully teasing each other. We met up in the hallways to exchange messages of support, distanced hugs, and information. We lunched together we laughed, and in some cases, we cried. Some of my colleagues had to take time off work because of their own medical susceptibilities for the contagion; one of our staff lost her grandmother to the virus; one of my neighbours was fighting for their life while on a respirator. With the virus hitting so close to home, I sought out extra care and support through my team. When at home I sought out support through my husband, family and through my sewing. After two days of training, I moved from working as a counsellor to becoming a Patient Care Team member on the Palliative Care Unit and the Complex Medical Care Unit (3 South). I was happy to be there, as I had completed my third year Social Work Placement at the Hospice of Windsor Essex County, and Palliative Care held a special place in my heart. For the first six weeks of the shutdown, not only did I learn, but I performed many of the duties of my other colleagues, e.g. nurses, housekeepers, and tray carriers: delivering meals, feeding (like I do with my mom), transferring, toileting, disinfecting and disposing of dirty linens and garbage. I even learned how to wash hair for bed-ridden patients in their beds. Boy, the women loved that! My days were very busy, and I was clocking between 13 and 15 km daily on my pedometer as I fulfilled my responsibilities. Despite all this work, and feeling good about this work, I felt compelled to do more. After having a nice peaceful dinner with my husband who was a fantastic support though this time, I would spend an hour or two in my sewing room. I was sewing masks, as there had been a mask shortage throughout the province. Making masks and scrub caps for my colleagues, friends, family members and anyone else who wanted them brought me an additional measure of peace. My husband volunteered to model one of the masks I made for him. Some of the days were difficult due to changing practices and protocols. In the early days of the pandemic, no visitors were permitted into the hospital. The only exception was for those who had a family member who was facing imminent death. Only one family member at a time could visit. One woman sat with her husband, alone, for three days and nights as he moved through his final days. Conversing with her as she prepared herself emotionally for his death was sad, not only because she was losing her husband, but because she had do it alone, connecting with other family members by phone only. I was sorry that she was going through this experience, and I was glad that I was able to be there to support her. On the day of his death, I along with many other staff members, gathered at the main doors just outside the elevators. We were donned in our protective gear and maintaining the six feet physical distance from each other. We had a moment of silence to respectfully say good-bye to our patient and to convey our condolences, silently, to his wife, as her husband’s body was lifted into the hearse. I believe she appreciated this gesture of support. I learned how valuable and appreciated we were by our community. Every day was a treat because we were frequently gifted with masks, caps, meals, candy, thank you cards, pictures, and messages of support from the community, even the children. All of these thoughtful, acts of kindness, words of encouragement and gifts of gratitude made traversing through this challenging time easier. It even called for times and events for celebration. Celebrations for birthdays took place via drive by’s with cars and people honking out birthday wishes. These drive by’s became a common occurrence with people wanting to give shout-outs to those working in nursing homes and other hospitals and to our partner frontline workers – the fire, police, EMS, taxi drivers, bus drivers and patient care transporters. It lightened everyone’s mood when we heard the honking of the cars driving past our windows. One of my colleges, Julie Turner organized a car parade to honor our fellow healthcare workers in the community’s nursing homes. In preparation for this parade I, along with my friend Sandra, made and packed over 100 masks and candy and placed them into zip lock bags to distribute prior to and during the parade. It was great fun to pass them out and toss them from the car window to people cheering us on while on the parade route. Over 200 vehicles showed up with horns a-blaring to signal our acknowledgement of the hard work and high risk that nurses, doctors, personal support works, custodians, cleaners, cooks and various other support staff were taking on to care for our elderly. It was remarkable to see all the cheering, clapping and waves from people throughout the community sharing their appreciation for what we do.Over the few months from March to July, I slowly increased my time to devote to our patients at CPGDD. I provided ongoing phone support to those needing it and provided updates to those seeking residential care. By July 2020, I was able to move back to my office and welcomed my fellow workers and residential and outpatient clients back into our care. We were all very happy to be working together again. For myself, I felt an immense sense of gratitude and appreciation for all the wonderful people that I get to work with every day. Through the trial, tribulations, fears and celebrations, I found myself feeling like we had become family. It took this world crisis to highlight just how valuable and sacred the connections are with those we work with, love and care for. Every adventure is a journey into the unknown and has aspects of fear, anxiety and anticipation. It also calls one to draw on courage, hope and connection with others, to persevere and strive for the best possible outcomes. I will remember the COVID-19 redeployment as a time of coming together with my big HDGH family, when we worked toward wellness for everyone in the face of a global pandemic. Diana Gabriele, BSW, RSW, CPGC, CAPPProblem Gambling CounsellorCenter for Problem Gambling and Digital Dependency
Hello, my name is Dave Cassidy, President of Local 444. I represent 10,000 active and 10,000 retired members who work or have worked in the auto, gaming/hospitality, auto parts, retirement home, aerospace, garbage/recycling, fisheries, trucking, auto hauling, energy/power industry and ferry transportation mainly here in Windsor-Essex County. This past year has easily been the most difficult of my career. For context, let me go back just a few weeks before March 2020. On February 27 at 2:00 pm, FCA (now Stellantis) informed me they were cancelling the third shift at the Windsor Assembly Plant. Devastating news for our community with potentially thousands of job losses and many of our members out of work. This news, obviously, was not well received. ,Fear and uncertainty were already knocking at our doors. With March came COVID-19, and almost immediately after invading our shores, panic set in. The announcement came from the government to close the casinos and hundreds more of our members were instantly out of work. Some are still out of work and are suffering today. We have lost some of our retirees to the virus. As well, it has prevented our retirees from seeing and caring for their loved ones. Our assembly and feeder plants were open, then closed, then open again under the guise of being "essential." Not only were we trying to find answers, solutions and give comfort to all of our members who now found themselves out of work, we had to do the same for those who were afraid to go into work. Our very social local with our meetings, picnics, golf tournaments, marches, parades, special gatherings, many of the events that we thought defined who we are came to a grinding halt—first time since the inception of our Local in 1956. These have been hard, dark times for me personally. Though I have a great team and tons of support as the President, I put much of our member's burdens on my shoulders. I can remember distinctly a day or two after the third shift announcement, and the casino announced being closed and the phone ringing off the hook from our members who were terrified to go to work into the plants, that brought me to a place mentally and emotionally where I do not think I have been before….and I did not like it. A quote I remember reading, and I hope you also enjoy the irony of its author- "In times of great stress or adversity, it is always best to keep busy, plow your anger and energy into something positive." Lee Iacocca. This is what I have always done: channel all of my stress, energy and anger into going to work and outworking my adversary. And go to work I did. I have logged my hours and have taken less time off this past year than any other year in my life. There was plenty of stress, adversity and anger that I was plowing into something positive. I was determined not to allow this virus to define who we are as a Local Union. We fought this virus at the bargaining table because of all years, this was the year where most of our contracts were due, including our biggest with Detroit 3. And we did not let this virus dictate a lower worth for our members. We learned quickly how to host virtual meetings, hold strike authorizations and ratify contracts online. This past year has been the harbinger of death to jobs for our members, and sadly it continues, but we will not stop fighting! We will continue meeting with government officials to open our casinos to a fair, sensible capacity to battle for EI reform and a made-in-Canada auto policy. With all the uncertainty and fear of the unknown, I wanted our Local to be the anchor in this storm when our member's sails were torn. Like Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Ford, I went to the members virtually every week to let them know where we were and to assure our members we were getting through this together. We highlighted positive stories of hope in our social media, held virtual concerts for our members and found ways to gather within the rules with drive-thru events that brought thousands of people safely to our Local. We were the first Local to host a retiree meeting virtually (if you ever helped your parents with the internet, you understand this was a fantastic feat). We saluted and fed our frontline workers. We handed out hundreds of gallons of Windsor-made hand sanitizer to our medical and elderly care places, distributed hampers of food to those in the county, and turkey dinners to our casino members. Our Local and many of us had to adapt to our new realities, and I want to give kudos to the staff and the Foundation Board at HDGH. It is not easy to change your mindset or modify and shape your events to continue to raise money for the charitable foundation. This virus has thrown many for a loop; often, boards throw up their hands and cancel everything. But not the staff or the HDGH Foundation Board. They put their heads together and came up with some creative ideas to raise money for the worthy causes people in this community depend on. A few examples are the HDGH Big Night which is usually the hottest ticket in town for a beautiful gala of fine dining and complementary entertainment to raise money for mental health programs. The event continued virtually, with delivered specialized boxes that included a fantastic meal, a movie, gourmet popcorn and many extras. As well, they had online auctions and draws. A great night in the middle of a pandemic still managed to raise $50,000 towards helping those struggling with mental health in our community. HDGH also teamed up with my local as we handed out support for our frontline worker's lawn signs for a donation. Hundreds of signs were picked up, and the money donated went towards coffee and donuts and BBQs with the help of Unifor Local 2458 to many of our frontline workers here in our community. The Bob Probert Ride was unfortunately cancelled, but again, HDGH is teaming up with Unifor Local 444 to sell tickets for a Harley Davidson draw to raise money for Mental Health and Addictions Services. This past year has been a real test of everyone's will to move forward. Our Local and the good folks at HDGH have proven that working together only strengthens our resolve not to let this virus or any other adversity define who we are. Instead, how we come through this better and stronger on the other end is how we will determine who we are. In solidarity Dave Cassidy
On March 18, 2020, I was to attend a concert that I have always wanted to go to. Pearl Jam was to play in Toronto. My husband and I were so excited but this quickly changed as this was the week that shut the world. COVID-19 took over my thoughts. As Hôtel- Dieu Grace Healthcare began to make decisions on how to move forward, I began to feel guilty. As a Respiratory Therapist, I felt I should have been at the frontline battling this horrific respiratory disease with my friends and colleagues in acute care. As an RT, I was trained to step up to battle a pandemic firsthand but I couldn’t because my role as an operations manager did not allow for this. I struggled, felt ashamed and truly believed that I was doing my profession an injustice. One day walking onto the unit, my staff had posted a new saying on our bulletin board. It said “TOUGH TIMES DON’T LAST BUT TOUGH TEAMS DO”. This brought tears to my eyes and helped me realize that my role here at HDGH was just as important as my colleagues’ role in acute care. To this day I don’t believe they know how much that sign helped me get through each day. I had patients and staff that I needed to protect. I needed to ensure I did everything within my power to keep everyone safe. As a result of this realization, I set out on a journey to learn everything I could about COVID-19, how it spread and how we needed to protect ourselves. After work, I would go home and immerse myself in videos and articles, remember knowledge is power! In the beginning I worked 19 days in a row, sometimes 10-12 hours per day and when I finally had a day off I could not let the thought of COVD-19 go. I was scared for my family, I was scared for my friends, and I was scared for my staff and patients. On March 20, 2020, HDGH made the difficult decision to close its doors to all visitors. I must admit that this is probably one of the hardest days I have experienced as a manager. I spoke with each patient and their family to let them know that they would no longer be able to see their loved one. Many tears were shed that day as I cried alongside both patients and their families. I went home and hugged each one of my four kids and my husband as I could not imagine not being able to see them if they were in hospital.Months passed and although the workload on the unit was much different than in the past, we were doing a great job at keeping COVID out. A new Designated Care Partner program was developed in order to allow for individuals to come and participate in the care of their loved ones. Just as we were getting into a flow, Wave two hit. This is when I put forth my name to go into Long Term Care (LTC) to help, as I knew they were struggling. I received a call and presented to LTC on Monday, December 21st. Others from HDGH were also there to offer a helping hand. I was brought up to one of the units to find three others individuals from HDGH and some agency staff. No one from the actual LTC home was working that day and it was the first day on the unit for us all. It was a bit chaotic at first but we all banded together to ensure that all patients were cared for. It was a very emotional time, one day you were helping feed a resident, the next day they were refusing to eat and the next day you would hold their hand as they passed away. I am so thankful to have been able to provide companionship to those residents in their last moments. A total of 11 residents passed in the four days leading up to Christmas. I cried in my car every night on my way home from work.On January 6, 2021, I was asked to leave the LTC home and go to a Rest/Retirement home that was in dire need of help. The moment I arrived, I felt that I would not be able to protect my family from the risk of me bringing COVID home. I decided to move into a hotel and I stayed there for two weeks. Two HDGH colleagues also made the decision to stay at the hotel. I am thankful for this as we supported one another through the long days at work and the nights of being away from our families.Within the first ten minutes of arriving at the Rest/Retirement home I made the decision to send one of the residents to the emergency room via EMS. This was the first of many; we often saw three EMS rigs pull up to take one of the residents to acute care. At first, it was a daily occurrence. Many staff were also affected so we had to rely on our community partners for the nursing care for the residents. HDGH staff, Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) staff, and a few of the Rest/Retirement Home staff would complete twice daily assessments, complete med passes and provide emotional and mental health support to all of the residents. In late January, I was informed that my unit at HDGH was declared to be in outbreak. I immediately felt the need to go see my team in order to support their emotional needs as they were dealing with the news. I reached out to the management team and they comforted me as they ensured that all staff and patients on my unit were being looked after and the team was coping well with the news. I was extremely grateful to my fellow managers as I knew their workload had increased with me being offsite for so long. Again, I remembered that TOUGH TIMES DON’T LAST BUT TOUGH TEAMS DO!As the situation at the Rest/Retirement home started to improve, I was given the responsibility to oversee their vaccination program. This is the first time that I was able to interact with the residents as they smiled and celebrated hope; hope that their lives could return to normal, hope that COVID-19 would no longer be able to ravish through the home. On February 8, 2021, I returned to HDGH. Although, it felt great to be back, I do not regret making the decision to go to LTC. I feel that I was able to make a difference in so many people’s lives. If asked to volunteer again I would be the first to put my hand up. I would like to thank all those HDGH staff whose paths I crossed during this journey. We supported and encouraged one another each day as we focused on what we needed to accomplish as a team. We now have a common bond and I am truly blessed to have worked with all of you.
General Info: (519) 257-5111
1453 Prince Rd.
Windsor, ON N9C 3Z4
© 2018 Copyright. Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare.
Created By Blue Lemon Media